The Development Research Division of NEDA-VI conducted a briefing for business and professional organizations, private investors, property developers, and media on the 2018 Regional Socio-Economic Report (SER) on July 2, 2019 at the Jalaur Conference Room, NEDA VI Building, Iloilo City.

The activity started with RD Ro-Ann A. Bacal explaining that the forum was initiated by the NEDA-VI office to reach out to development partners to inform them how the regional economy fared in the previous year as it moves forward towards achieving the goals and targets set in the Western Visayas Regional Development Plan, 2017-2022.  The gathering was also an opportunity to immediately get feedback from participants on how they view the sectors’ performance and what they suggest should be done to move forward and sustain the momentum of growth.

The highlights of the CY 2018 SER were presented by Ms. Maria Teresa G. Guadalupe, Chief of the Development Research Division. During the open forum, questions were raised related to the possible effect of the Rice Tariffication Law to the buying capacities of rice traders; role of the LGUs in agriculture; why the region is importing its food requirements from other regions in order to meet the demands of tourists. This is particularly true in Boracay Island where most of the food requirements of hotels and restaurants come from Cebu and Luzon. A concern was raised on why the Department of Agriculture is still focusing much on rice and corn production and not on high-value crops.  .

The participants called on the DA, DTI, DENR, and DAR to coordinate in implementing programs and projects to avoid duplication of activities and beneficiaries. They stressed the need for government to address unproductive and idle lands in the region to become more productive.  Basic agriculture data that were not available at the local level were raised as this is deemed vital in assessing the sector’s performance.  On MSMEs, a concern was raised on the expensive cost of accreditation fees and the lack of personnel of BFAD Office in the region resulting to the non-accreditation on some food products especially for pasalubongs.

The need for more events hosted by the region like concerts to attract tourists was also raised. RD Bacal commented that while the Iloilo Convention Center was set up for MICE activities, there is a need to set up a cultural center for performing arts to attract more visitors and to exhibit the creative works of the Ilonggos.  She stressed the need for proper management of the region’s cultural and historical sites, ancestral homes and museums, these being the concrete testimonies of the rich heritage of the region.

On the lack of funds of the LGUs for agriculture, RD Bacal shared that the LGUs will receive more funding through the IRA starting 2022 per Supreme Court final ruling on the sourcing of the Internal Revenue Allotment. She added that in preparation for these additional funds, LGUs need to be trained and capacitated to be ready for the utilization of funds particularly for the devolved functions related to agriculture and health, in particular, and poverty reduction in general.

The business groups represented were the PCCI-Region VI, Iloilo Business Club, Iloilo Federation for Information Technology, Iloilo Hotels, Resorts and Restaurants Association, PCCI-Antique, Boracay and Iloilo, POPA Agriventures Inc., Iloilo Medical Society, Philippine Nurses Association-Iloilo Chapter, United Architects of the Philippines-Iloilo Chapter, Ayala Land, Inc., FF Cruz and Co. Inc., Global Business Power, Megaworld Corporation, Robinsons Land, TaytaysaKauswagan, Inc., Rural Bankers Association. Various members of the tri-media and Philippine Information Agency were also present.  (ygb/DRD).